How to Use RAW in a Canon Rebel EOS

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Choosing to work with a camera's RAW photo mode is one of the big steps you can take to improve the quality of your final images. RAW modes include all the data that your camera captures, while the more common and convenient JPG format discards valuable data, limiting creative decisions you can make later. Not only is it simple to switch to RAW mode on a Canon camera, you can also choose to save both RAW and JPG formats at time of exposure.

Setting the Camera to Record RAW Images

Step 1

Press the MENU button on the camera back. Use the left and right arrow buttons to the right of the LCD screen to navigate the menu pages until you find the page that includes Quality or Image Quality, depending on your camera model and firmware.

Step 2

Use the down arrow button to highlight Quality or Image Quality and press the SET button to the right of the LCD screen to select. This menu displays a selection of quality settings for your camera. Use the arrow buttons to highlight one of the RAW modes. Most Canon EOS cameras offer two selections including RAW format.

  1. RAW + L -- This mode creates two images each time you take a photo, one in RAW format and one in the camera's highest-quality JPG format. 
  2. RAW -- This mode captures only RAW mode. 

Tip

    • Without software that supports displaying Canon's CR2 RAW format extension, you will not be able to view RAW images on your computer. Digital Photo Professional is supplied with your camera at time of purchase, and it can also be downloaded or updated at Canon's Support website online. 
    • Expand the capability of your computer and some applications by adding codecs that permit your computer to display RAW images. Windows introduced a pack of codecs for this purpose, and Canon-specific are available online. 

Using RAW Format Images

When you transfer your images from camera to computer, you will have two copies of each photo, one with a JPG extension and one with a CR2 extension, if you chose the RAW + L setting, or a single copy with the CR2 extension if you chose RAW only. Converting a RAW image to a format you can post or share requires processing of the file using Digital Photo Professional. Prior to converting, you have an opportunity to adjust and optimize image quality in ways that you cannot using JPG format files. Some of these advantages include:

  • Adjusting brightness -- RAW files record 12 or 14 bits of brightness, depending on the camera model, for 4,096 to 16,384 levels of brightness, versus 256 in a JPG file. 
  • Non-destructive editing -- when you make changes to a RAW file, you're actually creating instructions about how to save the image in another format, not changing the data in the RAW file itself. 
  • More correction options for under and over-exposed images -- JPG files dispose information in the compression process. RAW files retain all data, permitting more fine-tuning on borderline images. 
  • White balance correction -- After an image is saved in JPG format, its white balance is fixed. Only overall color corrections can be made. RAW files can handle changes to white balance corrections as well as color balance tuning. 

Processing and Converting RAW Files

Step 1

(Image: Software images courtesy of Canon)

Install and open Digital Photo Professional on your computer. Open the folder with RAW files imported from your camera.

Step 2

(Image: Software image courtesy of Canon. )

Double-click on an image to load it into Digital Photo Professional's editing mode. With the tool palette available in editing mode, make the desired image corrections, edits and enhancements.

Step 3

(Image: Software image courtesy of Canon)

Click File on the menu bar and select Convert and save from the drop-down list. Select from the options listed to save to JPG or TIF formats, or a combination of the two.

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